The Complete Guide to Chin Ups

Chins have all the qualities of the big barbell lifts but trains muscles of the upper back and arms in a way that the big lifts do not.

When you’re no longer able to deadlift every single session (during the novice linear progression), it’s time to add chin-ups into your program. It’s best to perform chin-ups twice per week, once at the beginning and at the end of the week.

For chin-ups, you will take a supinated grip with palms facing you. A supinated grip involves more of the biceps muscles, which helps fill the criteria for strength exercises – using the most muscle mass possible.

If you have flexibility issues that do not allow you to take a supinated grip, you will perform pull-ups using a pronated grip (palms facing away from you). Ideally, the bar will be just above the level of your fingertips as you are setting up.

Take a grip that’s about shoulder width apart. Each repetition starts with straight arms at the bottom and a completely open shoulder.  The rep ends with the chin over the bar, as high as you can get it.

To get there, pull your elbows down, trying to stay as close to the bar as possible. Then, lower down to straight elbows and repeat.

Your legs should be slightly in front of you and your abs should remain tight. Don’t shorten the range of motion with a flexed elbow at the bottom or stop before your chin gets above the bar below level of the bar at the top.

When to add weight to your chin-ups

Once you are able to do three sets of 10 reps, it’s time to start adding weight to your chin-ups. Use a dip belt and plates. Start with 2.5-5lb on the dip belt, and add 2.5-5lb each time you chin-up. Once you can do sets of 10 again, add more weight!

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